A year ago, my husband and I – together with our nine-year-old daughter – relocated from a farm following a great job opportunity that came my way. It was a huge move, and an agonising decision to move our daughter so far away from her friends and everything she knew, however just as I was going to pull out of the running for the role, my husband encouraged me to keep going.
We had been experiencing problems in our marriage for a long time. I hadn’t been happy living isolated on the farm; living in the country was my husband’s dream, not mine. He worked away Monday to Friday for our entire relationship, so I was very alone raising our baby single-handedly. I struggled to find a tribe and missed being surrounded by close friends as I had been in the city. I was lonely and bored for years. He never understood, and it made him angry that I wasn’t a natural farmer’s wife.
Long story short, we decided to make the move. We’d had financial stresses as building our dream home had gone way over budget and the farm was on the market anyway.
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Within two months it was clear that our marriage was past the point of no return. We hadn’t had sex for over two years and we were openly fighting where previously we’d settled into a relatively amicable co-parenting, flat mates type of relationship.
So I wasn’t surprised or even upset when he came to me with a plan to “soft exit” the marriage. He would continue to come back on weekends to be with our child, we agreed to remain friendly and focused on our daughter, and above all we agreed to be respectful to each other.
What did surprise me was the realisation that he and my very close friend – who had moved into our farm house to take care of it until it sold – had decided to explore their growing feelings for each other and were in fact having an affair behind my back. He had left me for her.
My friend – who had spent countless hours in my kitchen with me lamenting my failing marriage – never called me again. She’d made her choice and clearly felt no need to try to check in on me. The crazy thing is, I’d seen their feelings for each other grow over the previous year, I knew something was there and it had never really bothered me – such was the extent of my loss of romantic feelings for my husband. I’d just always assumed they’d park it until our marriage was dealt with, that I’d be included in their decision to act on it and that they would show me the respect I deserved as his wife and her friend.
There went our amicable, respectful soft exit. The months that followed were very dark times as the pain of being betrayed by the two adults I’d spent the most time with over the past five to 10 years consumed me. He moved back to the farm – she did not move out – and so over the space of weeks, there she was living my life in my house with my husband. I was officially a single mum in a completely new area without a friend in the world.
All the while, I kept the pain hidden from our daughter who was of course devastated to learn of our separation but was so happy that we’d promised to remain friends with each other. Even the new girlfriend was somewhat of a consolation prize as she had grown up with this woman who was like an aunty to her. I hid the fact that the betrayal meant that they would never be my friends. I’ve never understood it when couples live out their separation through their children. It’s just so damaging to them for the rest of their lives – I have friends still a little messed up from their parents’ messy divorce over 40 years ago.